Efforts Mounted to Develop a Nationally Cohesive Policy with Regard to the Palestinian Problem

Israeli leaders in and out of the government are trying to develop a cohesive national policy with regard to the Palestinian problem, now looming as the major issue in Middle East peace negotiations, and how to deal with the increasingly politicized Arab minority inside Israel.

The Cabinet’s formula of June, 1974 stating that the Palestinian question can be dealt with only within the framework of peace negotiations with Jordan is generally accepted and there seems to be a growing consensus that Israel must recognize some form of national identity for the Palestinians.

But the framework of Palestinian national expression and how far Israel can safely go in accepting it remains a matter of serious debate. Foreign Minister Yigal Allon stated Israel’s dilemma concisely, at a Labor Party meeting at Beit Berl today, when he said “If we return all territories we’ll be left without defensible borders; if we keep them all, the result will be a bi-national state.”

Allon, however, ruled out a Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan which, he said, could turn out to be a PLO state. He reiterated that the Palestinian problem must be solved in the Jordanian context and said Israel would never sign a peace agreement with Jordan unless it contained a solution of the Palestinian question.

STEPS FOR SOLUTION OUTLINED

Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who addressed the American Professors for Peace in the Middle East in Tel Aviv Thursday night, agreed that a Palestinian solution should be sought in negotiations with either Jordan or Lebanon or both. But he advocated Israel’s withdrawal from most of the Arab territories it occupied in the Six-Day War with only slight changes in the pre-June, 1967 map which would take into account human and population considerations rather than stretches of land.

Eban said that in exchange for a genuine peace pact, Israel should be ready to give up most of the Golan Heights, part of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, part of the Jordan Valley and most of Sinai up to the Raffah salient. According to Eban the “one-sided” approach of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger has “run out of gas.” He said the time has come for a mutual Israeli-American position opposed to the Syrian-Soviet attitude.

Eban warned that Israel must embark on a diplomatic offensive aimed at the Geneva conference where an overall settlement with the Arabs would have to be worked out. The present piecemeal approach of Kissinger only weakens Israel, he said.

ILP’S VIEWS STATED

The Independent Liberal Party, a partner in Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s coalition government, approved a resolution at a party executive meeting in Tel Aviv calling on the government to recognize the rights of Palestinians on the West Bank to national self-determination. ILP leader Moshe Kol, the Minister of Tourism. In Rabin’s Cabinet proposed round-table talks between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians of the West Bank.

The resolution made it clear that the objective of such talks should be a solution involving territory on both banks of the Jordan and that the negotiating partners, in addition to Jordan, should be any recognized Palestinian leadership that accepts the existence of Israel. Another section of the resolution urged some type of confederation between Israel and Jordan.

RULES OUT TALKS WITH PLO

Defense Minister Shimon Peres has also been speaking of late of offering extensive autonomy to West Bank Arabs. But in an interview published yesterday in the mess circulation Paris newspaper France Soir Peres ruled out Israeli negotiations with the PLO under any circumstances.

He maintained that even if PLO chieftain Yassir Arafat recognized Israel and agreed to negotiate with it directly. Arafat was in no position to speak in the name of the PLO, which, according to Peres, embraced extremist terrorist groups headed by George Habash, Naif Hawatme and Ahmed Jibril who demand nothing less than the dismemberment of Israel. “We cannot enter into relations with an organization whose aim is still the liquidation of the Jewish State.” Peres said.

Peres reiterated in France Soir his earlier proposal to place local government administration on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the hands of local Arab leaders elected by the population of those areas. He even envisaged a “European formula” embracing a “common market” and open frontiers between Israel and a semi-autonomous West Bank and Gaza Strip. But he adamantly ruled out a Palestinian national state between Israel and Jordan which, he claimed, would be open to Soviet influence close to the vital centers of Israel.

TO REVIEW ISRAELI ARABS’ SITUATION

Meanwhile, Labor Party Secretary General Meir Zarmi announced that he would shortly convene a meeting of the Labor Party bureau for an in-depth review of policy toward Israel’s Arab population. Zarmi took a very serious view of the Dec. 9 municipal elections in Nazareth the largest Arab city in Israel, where a Communist-backed slate headed by Tewfik Zaid won a landslide victory over the Labor Party candidate.

Labor Party experts on Arab affairs view the Nazareth results as having serious national implications. The Communist state clearly benefitted from burgeoning nationalistic sentiments among the Israeli Arab population which had been docile and more or less apolitical until the Yom Kippur War.

Labor’s main concern is the effect the Nazareth elections will have on Israel’s national elections in 1977. Israeli Arabs comprise nine percent of the electorate and if they vote en bloc, could elect 11 MKs out of 120 making them a potential power greater than that of the National Religious Party in the Knesset.

UNLIKELY THAT ATTITUDES WILL CHANGE

Shmuel Toledano, Premier Rabin’s advisor on Arab affairs, did not think it likely that Israelis would change their attitude toward the Arab minority under the present political circumstances. He said the attitude of the Jewish population was beyond the government’s control and was affected by Palestinian nationalism across the borders which most Israelis see as the greatest threat confronting the State.

The newly elected Nazareth City Council held its first meeting Friday under the chairmanship of Mayor Zaid. He reportedly invited the six minority Labor and NRP council members to join him in an all-faction coalition but local observers doubted that his invitation would be accepted.

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